- Internet & the Web
A Commentary on Commenting
Life in the fast lane of the information superhighway tends to bring on some road rage.
There are very few who don't have some level of interaction on some sort of social media nowadays. The benefits of social media are far reaching - people have the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and keep up on what's going on in the lives of people close to them. But what started as an extension of the social circle has evolved - or devolved, depending on how you look at it - into the center of it instead. It has reached the point that even politicians are utilizing it...the Ayatollah responded to Obama, and essentially threatened WWIII...on Twitter..Read that again. TWITTER. In fact, many of our politicians have begun to use social media - and much more than this voter is comfortable with. I am having a hard time accepting that our world leaders are so active in a world that grew out of Facebook statuses.
And Facebook has become the place where many get their news...not just their newsfeed, but their actual news. As a result tons of information and misinformation has reached an audience never before possible. Obviously, this has both good and bad repercussions in many ways. But perhaps the most frightening aspect of all of it...is the comment section. I am almost at a loss to explain the feelings I get when I make the mistake of clicking on a comment thread, and yet I have a sheer morbid curiosity that keeps me doing it time and again. I regret it every time, and have had to retrain myself not to respond - I don't always win that inner struggle - because quite frankly it then begins to eat too much into my actual life.
Recently in the news there was a story about a diner owner who screamed in the face of a 21 month old child who was in the throes of a tantrum, because according to the diner owner, the parents did nothing about it for 40 minutes. I wasn't there. I don't know what the actual details of the story are, and nor can I testify to the mind set of the diner owner in her tirade. But then, I don't have to testify. The diner owner blasted the parents and defended her actions on her FB account. It became a battle back and forth that inevitably went viral, Personally, as a mother of two, I would clock anyone who yelled at either of my children, But then, I have never allowed my children to cause a scene that would warrant such a reaction. Either way, if a young child is acting out, your argument is with the parents, not the kid. For me, the most alarming part of this story wasn't really the event itself - for as long as there have been restaurants there have likely been people complaining about kids in them. What alarmed me was the language the diner owner used to describe the event and the child, as well as the language used by the people who commented on that post. This poor baby, whose only crime was being brought to a diner and, according to most accounts, not fed in a timely enough fashion, was referred to as a "beast" and a "demon". And it begged the question in my mind...how is this ok? In my opinion, if you need to pat yourself on the back and feel as proud as this lady claimed to be for scaring a baby, then perhaps you need to examine whether you truly feel fulfilled with the life you live. But there she was, bragging and proclaiming how she would do it again. And while she was met with criticism by some, many cheered her on, also referring to this baby as a "beast" and calling the parents names I'd rather not repeat. Again, I don't know if they reacted "correctly" in this situation. What I do know is that, as a parent, you do the best you can to hold it together and are frequently flying without a net. No one is getting it right 100% of the time. I made the mistake of commenting on this post, in defense of the child. It's what I would say in real life in a real conversation. I somehow don't think some of those who responded to me would be able to do the same.
What happened after that, since Facebook keeps score, was the flooding of my newsfeed with stories of parents and opportunities to judge them, including one about a single dad who went to fight ISIS - who was called selfish and stupid by most of those commenting. I don't agree at all, I think he is brave and amazing for wanting to protect his son from those who would threaten his life just because he lives it differently than they would like. But I dared not comment. Because I had a lot to do that day and knew that my little comment would draw an onslaught of others, some nice but mostly not, and I had not the time or opportunity to get involved with it. I have been called a supporter of murder on women's health threads by pro birthers because I am pro choice. I have been de-friended by a woman I've known since high school who is an anti vaxer because I insisted on posting the scientific evidence that disproved every post she put up. I could have stopped...I could have let some slide...but I didn't. And that's what happens - you get sucked into this vortex of having the last word. Especially on my own posts on my own wall - I find that I go at it with people more than I would like. When all is said and done I am left wondering what the hell I was thinking about taking it that far. I have since attempted to discipline myself regarding such things...just today someone posted a comment in direct opposition to something I put up, and I just deleted the whole thing. Not because I lack conviction. Because I was too tired to get into it. I couldn't risk getting sucked into the back and forth that Facebook commenting tends to become.
I am left to wonder how this all happened. Perhaps we got so PC and so sanitized our personal daily conversations that being blunt and playing keyboard commando was unavoidable. I can't imagine that some of the things I have seen typed out in comment fields would ever be voiced in a face to face confrontation. Because if they were, physical confrontations would quickly follow. There is a general feeling that our nation is more divided now than it ever was before, and many theories have been put forth as explanation. If I may submit another one, it may very well be because of the rampant discord you find on social media daily. And I am in no way villainizing it...many wonderful things have happened as a result of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. But we can't deny that it has destroyed the filter that normally would cap some of the most terrible things we wish to say. And sometimes it begins as innocuously as a joke that comes across the wrong way - and spirals into something ugly and divisive. Conversation was once an art, and decorum the paintbrush. But as social media continues to creep further and further into the depths of our daily lives, we must fight against conversation becoming a lost art. I vote for a comeback in decorum, a return to being respectful even in disagreements. Because if we don't fight against it, people may very well become as disrespectful in person to person conversations as they are on comment threads. And I don't have the money to take my family to live on a private island of our own. And even if I did...it would probably have wi-fi,